The Massachusetts Fair Employment Practices Law (FEPL) makes it unlawful to discriminate against an employee based on sex, which has been interpreted to include pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions (MA Gen. Laws Ch. 151B Sec. 1 et seq.).
The Act covers private employers with six or more employees, all public employers, employment agencies, and labor organizations.
As a general rule, employers must treat pregnancy-related conditions the same as they treat other types of temporary disabilities for all employment-related purposes, including leave and other benefits.
Effective April 1, 2018, the Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act clarifies and expands these protections (MA Acts 2017, Chapter 54; MA Gen. Laws Ch. 151B, Sec. 4 et seq.).
In addition to existing protections against sex discrimination, the new Act specifically adds language covering “pregnancy or a condition related to said pregnancy including, but not limited to, lactation or the need to express breast milk for a nursing child” to the state FEPL.
The Act also prohibits employers from denying a reasonable accommodation for an employee’s pregnancy (or any condition related to the employee’s pregnancy, including, but not limited to, lactation or the need to express breast milk for a nursing child) if the employee requests accommodation, unless the employer can demonstrate undue hardship.
The Act also prohibits employers from refusing to hire a person who is pregnant because of the pregnancy (or because of a related condition) provided that the person is capable of performing the essential functions of the position with a reasonable accommodation.
Additional information on reasonable accommodation requirements is provided below.